Statements given during an internal police investigation by four Baltimore officers charged in the death of a black man from an injury in police custody were made admissible in court on Tuesday.
Ruling against a defense motion, Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams found that Sergeant Alicia White, one of the six officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray, had spoken without duress to internal investigators probing Gray's death.
"Sergeant White had the opportunity to say no," Williams said during the first day of a two-day pretrial hearing.
Three of those charged - Lieutenant Brian Rice and Officers Garrett Miller and Edward Nero - also agreed to drop motions to suppress their statements.
Gray, 25, suffered a spinal cord injury after being arrested in April and transported in a police van. His death a week later triggered rioting and looting in the largely black city and fueled a U.S. debate on police treatment of minorities.
Five of the six officers had made statements to police carrying out an internal investigation.
The only one to decline to give a statement, van driver Officer Caesar Goodson, faces the most serious charge: second-degree depraved-heart murder. He faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
White's attorney, Ivan Bates, had contended that she had not been advised of her rights before being questioned and had been compelled to speak to investigators.
Under questioning by Deputy State's Attorney Janice Bledsoe, Detective Michael Boyd said he had not told White of her rights before questioning her on April 12.
A second investigator, Detective Syreeta Teal, testified that White signed a form waiving the rights when she was questioned a few days later at police headquarters.
The rights include the Miranda warning to remain silent and state law that mandates protections for officers during misconduct investigations.
White and two other officers are charged with manslaughter, assault and misconduct.
The officers are facing individual trials, with starting dates scheduled from Nov. 20 to March. Williams also could hear arguments about what information prosecutors will have to share with the defense.
White and two of the other officers are black, and the remaining three are white.
(Reporting by Donna Owens; Editing by Ian Simpson and Mohammad Zargham)